Massachusetts Online Gambling

Latest MA news about online gambling
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Welcome to PlayMA, your source for all the latest on legal online gambling and gambling options in Massachusetts.

If you’ve read the news lately, you’ll know that the biggest buzz in gambling surrounds sports betting. Nearby states like New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut are already allowing bets on sporting events. The good news is that Massachusetts may not be on the outside looking in for much longer. However, with a bigger population comes greater complications, and accordingly, some hurdles remain in the Massachusetts Legislature before sports betting could become part of daily life in the state.

Online gambling might also get you thinking about online casinos and online poker. While there aren’t any legal options in the state for those right now, that situation is not set in stone either. In the meantime, we have all the latest news about what’s available in the Bay State right now. We also keep track of what might be coming down the (Mass Turn)pike. Check back for the latest happenings.

Legal gambling options in Massachusetts

Online Casinos

Online casinos are not legal in Massachusetts at this time. The legislative focus with regard to gambling is on sports betting, in both online and live formats. To the best of our knowledge, the addition of online casino gambling as a legal activity in Massachusetts is not on the horizon.

The best options for Bay Staters who want to play online casino games are social and sweepstakes casinos. These sites allow you to play slots and actual table games. Best of all, you can technically play for free if you wish, and some of the sites offer cash prizes for your play. Of the group, the main options are Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots, and Funzpoints.

Online Poker

Like online casinos, online poker is not legal in Massachusetts right now. In fact, because of the lower profits for everyone else (gambling providers and taxing authorities), it is less likely that Bay Staters will see online poker options before online casinos debut — and online casinos aren’t even in the discussion right now.

In the meantime, you can avail yourself of some social and sweepstakes options. These sites let you play poker with people across the country, and again it’s technically possible to do so for free. A good option for this kind of action is Global Poker. Global is a sister site to Chumba Casino and LuckyLand Slots, and has options for No Limit Texas Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, Crazy Pineapple and, most recently, Pot Limit Omaha High/Low (aka Eight or Better).

Sports Betting

Sports betting is potentially on the way to Massachusetts. We just don’t know when, exactly. As of late 2021, lawmakers are considering two bills that would make online and retail sports betting legal in the Bay State. The first, HB3977, has already passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming 156-3-1 vote, but has become mired in committee in the Senate. The other, SB297, is struggling with a similar fate as Massachusetts lawmakers seem content to coast on the state’s unexpected budget surplus.

At this point, sports betting legalization in Massachusetts in 2021 is unlikely. However, even without much urgency behind the issue, there are still plenty of lawmakers who want sports betting to get done in the state, so expect it to resurface sometime in 2022. Regardless of the timeframe, once it does happen, you can count on having options to bet on sports through your mobile device/computer and at various gambling locations around the state. The three casinos are no-brainers, and the two off-track betting facilities are pretty likely, too.

Lottery

The Massachusetts Lottery is one of the older options for legal gambling in the state, selling its first ticket in 1972. In its current format, it is a successful if perfunctory way for Massachusetts residents and visitors to take a chance at a big win. There are several draw games that you can play, including Powerball, Mega Millions and Megabucks, that offer jackpots in excess of $1 million.

In addition, you can play the Numbers Game and Mass Cash if you want some options a bit closer to home. The Massachusetts Lottery also sells dozens of instant win games that can put up to $4 million in your pocket with the scratch of a coin. Unfortunately, you cannot play any of these games online. Although the commission does offer an app, it’s only an informational tool, rather than a vector for playing games. At this point, there are three separate bills to legalize online lottery sales in the Massachusetts Legislature, but none of them have seen any recent activity or movement.

Horse Betting

One of the most common types of online gambling in any state is horse betting. Federal legislation from 2000 and an exemption in 2006’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act rendered betting on horse racing legal at the federal level and up to each state to decide. Massachusetts, like the majority of states, decided to allow the activity inside its borders.

There are a host of horse betting sites available to Bay State residents, but one of the best options is TVG. TVG is one of the most flexible places to handicap horses, but its other features are what set the site apart. TVG is actually a broadcast network with an attached horse betting site, and the broadcasts are dedicated to horse racing around the clock.

Daily Fantasy Sports

Daily fantasy sports contests have a particularly deep connection in Massachusetts. One of the major DFS companies, DraftKings, launched in Boston and retains its corporate headquarters in the Back Bay area. The only shock about Massachusetts’ legalization of DFS in 2016 was that it wasn’t the first state to do so — in fact, seven others had beaten the Bay State to the punch.

It doesn’t really matter, though. DFS is alive and well as a legitimate activity in Massachusetts, and is a standard activity for many of its residents. You can play on DraftKings, FanDuel or any of the other legitimate providers.

How to gamble online in Massachusetts safely

It is illegal to gamble online in Massachusetts, in the sense that state law does not permit the activity. A few specific avenues for placing a bet, such as daily fantasy sports and online horse betting, are clarified as legal under the law. However, activities like online slots and table games are unregulated and not permitted at this time. Any online casino or poker site that accepts Bay Staters right now is operating illegally in the state and is actually based offshore. These sites come with risks, and you should avoid them.

  • Transparency: With these sites, you cannot be sure about the motivations and impartiality of the site you choose. Remember — you will have to surrender your personal ID and banking data in order to play.
  • Protection: If you go offshore to gamble, a site might run a crooked game or refuse to honor your withdrawal requests, and there would be little you can do about it. These sites are not beholden to the US legal system or a US regulator and are not bound, necessarily, to the same level of ethical standards.
  • Security: You are putting your personal details in transit to servers thousands of miles away, and there are plenty of opportunities for hackers and other criminals to attempt an interception along the way.

What are the signs that a site is legit or not?

Here is how you can tell the difference between a legal gambling site and an illegal offshore gambling site. For the time being, it’s pretty easy. If a site is offering online casino games, online poker or online sports betting, then it’s offshore. Those three activities are not legal in Massachusetts. However, sports betting might be coming into the mix pretty soon, and you’ll need to be able to differentiate the legitimate sites from the illegitimate ones. There are four things you can do to confirm a site’s legitimacy.

  1. Look for some sort of mention of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Any legitimate site will have to answer to Mass Gaming — there’s no two ways about it. You can also look for the commission logo, which you can see an example of on the right.
  2. There should be a US-based address in the site’s contact details. Preferably, the address is inside Massachusetts, but anywhere in the US is fine. This requirement is evidence of a company’s adherence to US laws, as well as its obligations under the appropriate regulatory bodies.
  3. Check the Massachusetts Gaming Commission website. Regulation is a two-way street, and while legitimate sites are going to mention the MGC, you can be sure that the MGC is going to mention the sites that it monitors.
  4. Contact Mass Gaming directly. You can either use a response form or scroll down to the bottom of the page for the phone number and email address. Either way, the commission is going to know who can offer online gambling in the state and who cannot. You may not need to take this particular step, but if you want to be absolutely sure, reach out to the regulators to find out if a site’s for real and truly legit.

History of gambling in Massachusetts

Like many states, Massachusetts has a history with legal gambling that stretches back for decades. Here are some of the more recent relevant dates for the history of gambling in Massachusetts:

  • 1934 — Bingo, or “beano,” receives official recognition as a legal activity in Massachusetts for men’s clubs, churches or other charitable organizations. However, the bingo renaissance is short-lived in the Bay State, with then-Gov. Leverett Saltonstall reinstituting the ban in 1943 after reports of organized crime outfits operating beano games as fronts for their rackets. Bingo continues in church basements and other locations off the radar until 1971, when the Legislature legalizes bingo games again. At the same time, the Massachusetts Legislature authorizes pari-mutuel wagering on horse and dog races inside state lines. The first racetracks open the following year.
  • 1971 — This year proves to be a fruitful time for gambling fans in Massachusetts, as lawmakers approve the creation of the Massachusetts Lottery (and its commission). The purpose of the legalization is quite simple — the state wants to provide money for its 351 cities and towns. Tickets first go on sale in March 1972. Since that time, the lottery has provided more than $28 billion to the state for distribution to various municipalities. It has also awarded more than $92 billion in prizes.
  • 2011 — The debut of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in nearby Connecticut in the 1990s begins a frustrating drain on the gambling revenues in Massachusetts. In November 2011, Gov. Deval Patrick signs the Expanded Gaming Act into law. The act divides the commonwealth of Massachusetts into three geographic regions. Region A is in the middle, with Region B in the west and Region C in the southeast. By the terms of the act, each region can host a single full-service casino. In addition, the act also allows for a Class II slots parlor. Since then, Region A has Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, and Region B has MGM Springfield in (obviously) Springfield. The slots parlor, the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, is up and running as well.
  • 2016 — Massachusetts’ daily fantasy sports regulations become law in April 2016. Gov. Charlie Baker signs off on a comprehensive economic development bill for the entire state that includes the legalization of DFS as part of its initiatives. Top DFS company DraftKings began in Boston and retains its corporate headquarters there, so it’s not terribly shocking that Massachusetts becomes the eighth state to recognize DFS formally as a legal activity.

FAQ

Is online gambling legal in Massachusetts?

For the most part, no. Online casinos, poker and sports betting remain illegal activities in Massachusetts, and the activity most likely to receive approval, sports betting, is probably a year away or more. The only options that you have are horse betting and DFS.

Can I play at online casinos in Massachusetts?

No. Online casinos are not legal in Massachusetts.

Can I bet on sports in Massachusetts?

No. Sportsbooks, whether online or live, are not active or allowed in the Bay State yet.

Who oversees gambling in Massachusetts?

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Mass Gaming regulates every bit of gambling in the state and will do so for any future gambling expansions.

What is the Massachusetts gambling age?

You need to be 21 or older for most gambling activities. You must be 21 to play at Massachusetts casinos, and sports betting will require players to be this age or older as well. The only exceptions are the lottery and horse betting, which require players to be 18 or older.

Resources

Responsible gambling

If gambling is a problem for you, there are multiple resources available in Massachusetts around the clock, and every minute you spend in recovery is a minute you didn’t lose gambling.

Responsible gambling services in Massachusetts begin with the Office of Problem Gambling Services, a division of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The OPG provides crisis services to problem gamblers and training assistance for those who care for problem gamblers. If you want to explore options for problem gambling treatment, you can contact the OPG at the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline (800-327-5050) or reach out through the live chat function on the helpline website. Alternatively, you can also reach out to the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, which maintains its own helpline at 800-426-1234 and a live chat function on its website.

Massachusetts also maintains a voluntary self-exclusion list. The state-run program bars you from patronizing any gambling locations inside Massachusetts. Placing yourself on the list will render you unable to play at these venues and subject to various forfeitures if you are caught doing so. Your time on the list can range from six months to the rest of your life.

Tribal gambling in MA

Massachusetts is home to two Native American tribes that qualify as federally recognized entities:

  • Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe
  • Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)

So far, only the Mashpees have moved to secure a compact with the folks in Boston. Although the tribe only received federal recognition in 2007, it has moved quickly to declare some 300 acres near Taunton as its reservation lands. This declaration has come under considerable fire from the government, including a 2020 effort by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to remove the reservation designation from the lands. However, now that those challenges appear to be over, the Mashpees are moving forward with their plans for the First Light Casino & Resort, a full-scale casino that will serve as the Region C property under the Expanded Gaming Act.

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), meanwhile, has not been as dogged in its pursuit of an agreement with the state. Instead, it has moved to create a bingo facility on tribal lands. Of course, the government sued this tribe, too — this time, it was the city government of Aquinnah — claiming that a 1983 land agreement nullified the tribe’s ability to offer gambling. After some arguing in court, the tribe prevailed in 2018 and began moving forward with its plans. However, the town remained undeterred and has kept the project tied up in court ever since with any issues that it could find. It now appears that the tribe will be able to build the venue, albeit with some approvals from the powers that be.

Related links to MA gambling

If you want or need more information about online gambling in Massachusetts, there is plenty available. Visit any of the links below to find out more:

The state’s legal gambling locations are the following:

  • Encore Boston Harbor (Class III)
  • MGM Springfield (Class III)
  • Plainridge Park Casino (Class II)
  • Raynham Park (Off-track betting)
  • Suffolk Downs (Off-track betting)
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